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Typhoon causes child hunger in the Philippines

A new report issued by the United Nations (UN) is warning of a rise in child hunger after last year’s severe typhoon in the Philippines

Typhoon Bopha hit the southern island of Mindanao in December, killing hundreds and leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. Following the destruction, the latest situation report (12 February 2013) by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that nearly 70,000 children under five could be at risk from malnutrition this year.

Screening of youngsters is already taking place in the two worst-affected provinces of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley. Here, over 100 cases of children suffering from acute malnutrition have already been identified. Hospitals in the region are also reporting a rise in ‘spontaneous admissions’ of severely malnourished children, as parents reduce meals due to loss of income. Health and development agencies believe the number of severely malnourished under-fives could rise to 1,200 children in 2013.

Emergency food assistance has already been provided to around one million people by the Philippines government and relief efforts continue to target 400,000 people who were most affected by the disaster and still require food aid. It’s likely however that this distribution will finish next month.

The focus is already turning to other support activities such as cash-for-work and food-for-work programmes in the region. Emergency school feeding will also continue, benefiting around 80,000 students. And preparations are being made to provide supplementary foods to pregnant and lactating mothers. But to improve the food security situation overall, it’s likely that much more support will be needed to help locals rebuild livelihoods and create new and alternative ways of living.

Many families remain in temporary shelters or severely damaged homes. According to Alertnet, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that the majority of these families have not received any help to repair their properties because funding has dried up. A UN appeal to raise 76 million dollars only received 29 million dollars in response. The ICRC is therefore appealing for 32 million dollars of additional funding to boost its operations.

Meanwhile, health professionals remain concerned about high levels of illness, such as respiratory infections and acute watery diarrhoea in children. Some of the region’s main hospitals are back up and running to deal with cases, but many provincial hospitals and village medical posts were destroyed by December’s storm. These facilities, as well as some schools and day care centres, have yet to be rebuilt.

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